Why We're at War With Ourselves: Understanding Racism as an Introduction to Psychology

There's nothing inherently wrong with stereotypes. In fact, cognitive psychologists argue that we need them in order to survive.

There's nothing inherently wrong with stereotypes. In fact, cognitive psychologists argue that we need them in order to survive. For instance, that is how we know what is good to eat, and what is not. Yale professor Paul Bloom, argues in his Floating University lecture that "part of being a successful human is the ability to learn, and part of learning is making statistical generalizations on the basis of limited experience."


While the stereotypes we make about groups we are part of can be accurate and positive, we want to avoid certain stereotypes, "particularly ugly pernicious stereotypes," Bloom argues, "that are based on a person's sex, age, race, profession, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality." These stereotypes tend to be based on biased information. For instance, are all Italian-Americans like the characters on the Sopranos--or for that matter, The Jersey Shore? Of course not. What if your opinion of Jews was based solely on Shakespeare's character Shylock? A reasonable person would say no. However, many of our stereotypes are the result of an unconscious bias.

For instance, when the Soviet Union was America's ally during World War II, Americans tended to describe Russians as “brave and hard-working." After the war, in 1948, Americans described their new Cold War competitors as “cruel and conceited."

In the video below, Bloom addresses racist stereotypes and how he says we can structure our world so that we can diminish the role of unconscious bias.

Watch the video here:

What makes someone gay? Science is trying to get it straight.

Evolutionarily speaking, being gay is still something of an enigma

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  • Heterosexual people have been less interesting to scientists than gay people, in terms of where they come from, because, evolutionarily speaking, being gay doesn't lead to a higher "higher reproductive fitness" — meaning, it doesn't lead to more babies.
  • Across cultures, gay boys tend to be more interested in spending time with their mothers.
  • We still don't really know why gay people are attracted to each other.

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The parts of the brain highlighted in red and yellow are thought to control your sense of attention and memory. (image c/o Brain Network Lab)
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Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it's fair to say that music moves people in special ways. 

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Suppose you forgot it was your partner's birthday, but you know that they would appreciate the smallest of gestures, say a bouquet. It's late at night and no florists are open. The cemetery on your way home has recently had a funeral, and you walk across the site and pick up a good-looking bouquet of roses from someone's grave. You then head home, and the flowers are happily received by your partner.

Would you say that you hurt anyone?

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